Double New Zealand Rally Champion Richard Mason and Co-driver wife Sara, are determined to make the most of a very unique opportunity at the second round of this year’s New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) - Rally New Zealand – which runs this weekend – May 6 to 8.

Due to the event rotation system currently being used by the FIA – the governing body of world motorsport - this 41st edition of Rally New Zealand is the first time in 30 years that it will not be a round of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

The resulting absence of the sport’s WRC drivers means that the Masterton Flyers have their best-ever chance to become the first New Zealanders since Jim Donald and Kevin Lancaster (Sanyo Ford Escort  RS in 1981) to have their names engraved on the Rally New Zealand trophy, alongside such rallying legends as Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Tommi Makinen – and then there’s the heroes since 2000 - Marcus Gronholm, Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb.

“This really is a very unique and rare opportunity,” said Richard, “because all the current generation of local drivers have only ever known Rally NZ as a World Championship event. This has meant the best we could ever achieve is either first Kiwi or winning our class or category. We have never actually been able to go out there and fight for the overall trophy.

“And what’s more, with New Zealand having already been confirmed as a WRC round in 2012 – and let’s hope for many years after that - who knows when this chance might come round again.

“So, although we said at [Rally] Otago that our priority this year is “driving for the championship”, this situation at Rally NZ really has us ‘fired up’ to go for the win. It’s just too special an opportunity to not give it our best shot.”

Coincidentally, the 1981 rally already rates highly in Mason Family rallying history as Richard’s father, Tom, recorded his best finish of his four Rally New Zealand starts in that year, bringing his Escort RS1600 home in 7th place overall – completing the 41 special stages (985kms all over the central North Island) in a time of 12 hours 34 minutes and 42 seconds. And who were Tom and Co-Driver Dave Walsh just behind – none other than Morrie Chandler, and he had current NZRC series sponsor Brian Green (and Car 17 this year) ahead of him in 5th place.

Richard and Sara’s best result was in 2006 when they finished 10th overall – 2nd PWRC, to an emerging Jari-Matti Latvala, and one place in front of Moto GP legend Valentino Rossi...

“So I guess family bragging rights could also be ‘up for grabs’ this year as well, but regardless of all that, it’s always awesome to get out on such iconic stages as Whaanga Coast, Te Hutewai and the pair at Te Akau.

They have been both good and bad to us over the years, but completing a perfect run over all of them in the same event is what keeps bringing us back – and it’s certainly what we intend doing this year...”

BNT Mason Motorsport are proud to welcome Hopper Construction and Geartech into their group of partners this year, and would also like to acknowledge their ongoing association with long time supporters BNT, Subaru, Dunlop, B.W.O’Brien, The PC Factory, ScottSpeed Performance Engines, MCA Suspension, Pagid, Randall & Associates, Quality Foods and Tom’s Auto Services, without whose invaluable assistance they would not have been able to embark on their tenth consecutive year as a leading contender in the NZRC.

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